What’s Out Tonight?

A general ASTRONOMY site to get you started exploring the night sky

The 88 Constellations

Technically, the Big Dipper is NOT a constellation, but part of the constellation called Ursa Major or Big Bear. However, the Big Dipper is a very prominent set of stars and one that most people more easily recognize. Its two end stars in the bowl is also a “stepping stone“ or pointer to the North Star and its handle curves/points to the star Arcturus and on to Spica. Hover over the image to see “pointers.”

NAME of CONSTELLATION , 3-letter Abbreviation, Meaning of Name, Latin Gentitive

There is a discussion at the end of this listing which includes an explanation of the Latin Genitive. 

ANDROMEDA, And, Daughter of Cassiopeia, Andromedae 
ANTLIA, Ant, Air Pump, Antliae 
APUS, Aps, Bird of Paradise, Apodis 
AQUARIUS, Aqr, Water Bearer, Aquarii 
AQUILA, Aql, Eagle, Aquilae 

ARA, Ara, Altar, Arae 
ARIES, Ari, Ram, Arietis 
AURIGA, Aur, Charioteer, Aurigae  
BOOTES, Boo, Herdsman, Bootis 
CAELUM, Cae, Engraving Tool, Caeli 

CAMELOPARDALIS, Cam, Giraffe, Camelopardalis 
CANCER, Cnc, Crab, Cancri 
CANES VENATICI, CVn, Hunting Dog, Canum Venaticorum 
CANIS MAJOR, CMa, Big Dog, Canis Majoris 
CANIS MINOR, CMi, Little Dog, Canis  Minoris 

CAPRICORNUS, Cap, Sea Goat, Capricorni 
CARINA, Car, Ship’s Keel, Carinae 
CASSIOPEIA, Cas, Queen of Ethiopia, Cassiopeiae 
CENTAURUS, Cen, Centaur, Centauri 
CEPHEUS, Cep, King of Ethiopia, Cephei 

CETUS, Cet, Whale, Ceti 
CHAMAELEON, Cha, Chameleon, Chamaeleontis 
CIRCINUS, Cir, Drawing Compass, Circini 
COLUMBA, Col, Dove, Columbae 
COMA BERENICES, Com, Berenice’s Hair, Comae Berenices 

CORONA AUSTRALIS, CrA, Southern Crown, Coronae Australis 
CORONA BOREALIS, CrB, Northern Crown, Coronae Borealis 
CORVUS, Crv, Crow, Corvi 
CRATER, Crt, Cup, Crateris 
CRUX, Cru, Southern Cross, Crucis 

CYGNUS, Cyg, Swan, Cygni 
DELPHINUS, Del, Dolphin, Delphini 
DORADO, Dor, Goldfish, Doradus 
DRACO, Dra, Dragon, Draconis 
EQUULEUS, Equ, Little Horse, Equulei 

ERIDANUS, Eri River, Eridanus, Eridani 
FORNAX, For, Furnace, Fornacis 
GEMINI, Gem, Twins, Geminorum 
GRUS, Gru, Crane, Gruis 
HERCULES, Her, Strongman/The Son of Zeus, Herculis 

HOROLOGIUM, Hor, Clock, Horologii 
HYDRA, Hya, Sea Serpent, Hydrae 
HYDRUS, Hyi, Water Snake, H ydri 
INDUS, Ind, Indian, Indi 
LACERTA, Lac, Lizard, Lacertae 

LEO, Leo, Lion, Leonis 
LEO MINOR, LMi, Little Lion, Leonis Minoris 
LEPUS, Lep, Hare, Leporis 
LIBRA, Lib, Scales, Librae 
LUPUS, Lup, Wolf, Lupi 

LYNX, Lyn, Lynx, Lyncis 
LYRA, Lyr, Lyre, Lyrae 
M ENSA , Men, Table Mountain, Mensae 
MICROSCOPIUM, Mic, Microscope, Microscopii 
MONOCEROS, Mon, Unicorn, Monocerotis 

MUSCA, Mus, Fly, Muscae 
NORMA, Nor, Level, Normae 
OCTANS, Oct, Octant, Octantis 
OPHIUCHUS, Oph, Snake Holder, Ophiuchi 
ORION, Ori, The Hunter, Orionis 

PAVO, Pav, Peacock, Pavonis 
PEGASUS, Peg, The Winged Horse, Pegasi 
PERSEUS, Per, Rescuer of Andromeda, Persei 
PHOENIX, Phe, Phoenix, Phoenicis 
PICTOR, Pic, Easel, Pictoris 

PISCES, Psc, Fishes, Piscium 
PISCIS AUSTRINUS, PsA, Southern Fish, Piscis Austrini 
PUPPIS, Pup, Ship’s Stern, Puppis 
PYXIS, Pyx, Ship’s Compass, Pyxidis 
RETICULUM, Ret, Eyepiece Reticle, Reticuli 

SAGITTA, Sge, Arrow, Sagittae 
SAGITTARIUS, Sgr, Archer, Sagittarii 
SCORPIUS, Sco, Scorpion, Scorpii 
SCULPTOR, Scl, Sculptor’s Apparatus, Sculptoris 
SCUTUM, Sct, Shield, Scuti 

SERPENS, Ser, Snake, Serpentis 
SEXTANS, Sex, Sextant, Sextantis 
TAURUS, Tau, Bull, Tauri 
TELESCOPIUM, Tel, Telescope, Telescopii 
TRIANGULUM, Tri, Triangle, Trianguli 

TRIANGULUM AUSTRALE, TrA, Southern Triangle, 
Trianguli Australis 
TUCANA, Tuc, Toucan, Tucanae 
URSA MAJOR, UMa, Big Bear, Ursae Majoris 
URSA MINOR, UMi, Little Bear, Ursae Minoris 
VELA, Vel, Sail, Velorum 

VIRGO, Vir, Virgin, Virginis 
VOLANS, Vol, Flying Fish, Volantis 
VULPECULA, Vul Little Fox, Vulpeculae

Historical Origin of the Constellations
Most constellations visible from the northern hemisphere originated from the Greeks, as recorded by Ptolemy in his first century book, The Almagest. Coma Berenices and Crux were added around 1603 and Plancius added Camelopardalis and Monoceros in 1613. In 1690, Hevelius added Lacerta, Leo Minor, Lynx, Scutum, Sextans and Vulpecula. At the very end of the 1600’s, the Dutchmen, Pieter Dirkszoon and Frederick de Houtman created 12 southern hemisphere constellations, namely: Apus, Chamaeleon, Dorado, Grus, Hydrus, Indus, Musca, Pavo, Phoenix, Triangulum Australe, Tucana and Volans. In 1756, the Frenchman Nicolas Louis de Lacaille added the last 14 of the southen hemisphere constellations, namely: Antlia, Caelum, Circinus, Fornax, Horologium, Mensa, Microscopium, Norma, Octans, Pictor, Pyxis, Reticulum, Sculptor and Telescopium. He also split the extremely large constellation, Argo Navis (Ship Argo, sailed by Jason and the Argonauts), into Vela, Puppis and Carina. 

Serpens, the Snake, is the only constellation split between two parts of the sky. The Snake is being held by Ophiuchus and lies across his body. The tail, known as Serpens CAUDA is located to the east or left of Ophiuchus and the head, known as Serpens CAPUT, is located to the west or right of Ophiuchus. Technically, Ophiuchus is the 13 constellation of the zodiac because part of its boundary (and foot) crosses the ecliptic. Crux occupies the least area in the sky and Hydra the most area. 

Latin Genitive
Genitive refers to a grammatical case resulting in a spelling variation of a word that indicates or implies a relationship of possession. Genitives are not used in modern English. Where they exist, they are a holdover from Latin and other languages. Genitives of the constellations are still used today in conjunction with the Bayer letters, Flamsteed numbers or similar designation to “name” stars. For example, the “alpha” star in Orion, as asigned by Bayer, but best known as Betelgeuse, could also be referred to as alpha Orionis, where Orionis is the genitive form of Orion, indicating possession of the alpha star. Betelgeuse can also be indicated as 58 Orionis when referring to it by its Flamsteed number. Most of us have heard of Alpha Centauri, one of the closest stars to us. This is its gentitive name using its Bayer letter designation. This star is also commonly called by its name, Rigel Kentaurus.